(AustinTalks)

Senior Ella Houston, a 29th Ward resident, ran into a lot of issues while registering by phone for a vaccine appointment, she said at the ward’s monthly Zoom meeting last week.

Houston initially received a call from the city telling her to register for a vaccine appointment at The Loretto Hospital.

She said when she called the number back, she was connected first to the Wrigleyville vaccination site and then to one in Aurora.

After calling 311, Houston was able to reach Loretto, but no one was available to answer her call or take a message, she said.

“So I don’t know exactly what to do. I can’t get anywhere,” she said.

Loretto’s vaccine program resumed last week after being paused by city officials due to allegations the hospital improperly vaccinated people.

As reported by AustinTalks, CEO George Miller took took full responsibility for the improper vaccinations. “We absolutely made mistakes,” he said last month.

The city is managing Loretto’s reopened clinic, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Houston said when she got to the point of scheduling her appointment, “everybody wants to email or go to a computer.

“Now, as you know, most seniors in Austin don’t have computers. How are they going to schedule an appointment if they don’t have a computer?”

Ald. Chris Taliaferro said his office would look into the phone number Houston called — (312) 746-4835 — which was consistent with the one provided by CDPH for appointment scheduling — and try to ensure residents have a usable phone number for booking appointments.

Information about where and how to sign up for the vaccine will be included in the 29th Ward’s regular email blasts, as well as a physical newsletter that will be sent to all ward residents in the next few weeks, Taliaferro said at the April 21st ward meeting.

While there are some temporary sites popping up, Loretto will be the consistent site for the Austin community, he said.

There’s still a lot of people in Austin who haven’t been vaccinated, he said. “So, continue to be safe when you go out. Make sure you’re wearing a mask.”

The ward office, at 6272 W. North Ave., has PPE available for those that need a mask or hand sanitizer, Monday through Friday. “We can make sure that you get an adequate supply of hand sanitizer or a mask for your personal use,” the alderman said.

At last week’s meeting, the alderman said he’d spoken with the commanders of Chicago Police Department’s 25th and 15th districts, and “both have assured me that they have put together summer violence reduction plans or initiatives that will help to keep our shootings as low as possible.”

Those plans include the districts receiving extra officers from the city’s roving units, along with support from the Cook County Sheriff’s office and the Illinois State Police.

Taliaferro said the strategy goes beyond simply having more units patrolling the community; officers will be expected to get out of their cars and actually engage with residents.

“I am fairly confident that we will have, particularly in the 15th and 25th Districts, plans that will somewhat keep our residents and keep our neighborhoods safe over the summer.”

Residents also got an update on a new grocery store planned for Austin.

Liz Abunaw’s Forty Acres Fresh Market will be moving into the old Salvation Army building at 5317 W. Chicago Ave.

Forty Acres currently operates pop up markets in underserved communities and a delivery service providing affordable access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Chicago Avenue site will the be their first brick and mortar.

“I am very proud of Ms. Liz’s business,” the alderman said. “We want to be able to say, ‘we are not a food desert in Austin.’”